Apalachicola NERR Staff Help to Rescue Nearly 50 Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles

ANERR staff member Hanna Garland pictured with a turtle rescue

ANERR staff member Hanna Garland pictured with a turtle rescue

Florida’s shallow bays and estuaries provide important habitats for threatened and endangered sea turtles. Apalachicola is home to adults and juveniles of three species of sea turtle: the loggerhead, green and Kemp’s Ridley.

ANERR staff member Megan Lamb with a rescued sea turtle

ANERR staff member Megan Lamb with a rescued sea turtle

As subzero temperatures swept most the north and western parts of the nation this week, Florida also experienced a cold snap. While we were bundling up and turning up our heaters, Florida’s sea turtles were seeking refuge. Unlike marine mammals such as dolphins or manatees, sea turtles cannot keep themselves warm. Sea turtles’ body temperature varies with the surrounding water. At very low temperatures, less than 50oF, these cold-blooded animals may become lethargic or “stunned.” When they become stunned they have difficulty moving through water and are pushed to marshy areas or could be found floating on the surface, which could cause death.

Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve staff members, Hanna Garland, Jason Garwood, Danielle Jones and Megan Lamb along with staff from the University of Florida staff, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff, and volunteers patrolled the southwest corner of St. Joe Bay on shore and by boat on Tuesday and Wednesday. Staff and volunteers rescued 47 cold-stunned turtles. Most were juvenile Green Turtles, but five were the very rare Kemp’s Ridley. The turtles were taken to nearby certified marine turtle rehabilitation centers.

For more information on the cold-stunning of Florida’s sea turtles click here.

For more information about the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve click here.

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